DC wedding photographer | Amber Wilkie Photography » Photography for awesome people.

Quitting the day job, people to whom I am exceedingly grateful and, as if you wanted to hear it, how busy I’ve been the last few weeks

I quit my job last week.  It wasn’t an I’ve-had-it-up-to-here spur-of-the-moment regret-it-immediately decision.  I’d been planning to make the move for a while, ever since my goal for the year got blown away and then doubled… and then my bookings moved from “manageable with a bit less sleep” to “no life whatsoever besides shooting, editing, client management and… the day job.”  Something clearly had to give.  And it did.

I started writing this post the day I said the words, but of course I was too busy to actually finish it and now I’m a week out and have had some time to actually enjoy my freer schedule.  It has been, in a word, relaxing.  I actually watched a movie this week.  I cooked dinner for my husband.  I cleaned.  I’ve started to tackle all of the projects that just couldn’t make it onto the must-do list (cleaning my “area” of the house, laundry, website/branding stuff, reaching out to old and new friends to catch up, reading a damn magazine).  I’m still busy, but I’m starting to breathe.

Things got crazy for me quickly in April.  I more or less had everything under control up to then, even though I was swimming in engagement sessions.  But somewhere early April things started to tip for me, what with a trip to New York to do two engagements, followed the next weekend by a wedding and two engagements, and the following weekend by a boudoir session and two weddings.  The next weekend, I went to New Orleans.  The following, one wedding, one engagement, one headshot and another boudoir session.  And then… I quit.  And this past weekend, I had absolutely no photo work to do whatsoever (besides editing, of course).  Actually, typing this out, I can’t hardly believe I got all of this done and delivered and the way I want it.  And in-between, I was trying desperately to get together my Artomatic space!  And all through the weekdays, looking through my calendar from the past month, I have orange (my color for photography business events) all over the damn weekdays – client meetings, networking events, meetings with other photographers.  In short, I’ve been really busy.  Busier than even I realized up until right now.

And looking at this list of things I’ve done the past month, I’m really proud of myself.  Proud that I held it together.  Proud that my clients (hopefully) didn’t realize I was on the edge, just a bit.  Proud that, as of today, everything is delivered.  I have outstanding items with some clients, of course, but they’re not waiting on me.  It’s a beautiful feeling to be able to work on the less urgent matters.  Naturally, I have two weddings this weekend so that all goes out the window tomorrow, but today is nice.  I might even watch another movie.

So I quit the job.  Would have been wise of me to quit before everything got crazy, but I set the date months ago knowing this past week was an important one for my organization.  I’ll still be working here part-time for a while (at their request) but spending a lot more time at my other computer.  I don’t have any great revelations about self-employment yet… we’ll see what happens when I really do have to rely on this income.

But in the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point.  Just a few years ago, I was a total newbie shooting my friends for a “fake wedding” so I would have portfolio images.  Just a few years ago, I was blogging about what I ate for dinner, just so I would have material and hopefully improve my SEO ranking (for the record, I don’t think I have a single booking from keyword searches, just to be clear).  Not so long ago, I signed a contract with a lady to give her a twenty-two percent commission rate for weddings she sent me (we’ve since dissolved our relationship and I never did actually shoot a wedding on that contract).  In short, not all that long ago, this day seemed like a far away place.  I’m so grateful for the guidance, help, knowledge and money from these amazing folks:

  • My clients.  Obviously.  Especially those first few who took the leap with me.  I recently told my first paying bride that she was – and she either gracefully lied and said she didn’t know or I was playing it that cool.  I never forget what a huge decision a wedding photographer is and I’m really grateful for each and every couple that chooses me to be there on their day.  Every wedding I photograph is an honor, a privilege, and a huge responsibility.
  • My photographer pals.  Cassidy DuHon in particular.  I’ve worked my ass off the last couple years, yes, but I wouldn’t have weddings in which to work it without the amazing photographers who had me along to second shoot their weddings.  There is absolutely nothing that will help you learn like experience and these folks gave me what I need to rock out weddings for my own clients.
  • George.  He’s been plenty busy himself, but my man is a constant source of strength for me.  He rubs my feet when I get back from weddings, he understands when I’m spending my fourth night of the week at client meetings or networking events.  He endures me hemming and hawing over this image or that image for the blog post.  In short, he’s amazing and I’m so lucky to have him.
  • SWPB.  If that acronym means nothing to you and you’re a wedding photographer, shame shame shame.  Photographer friends who are new to the biz – no need to write me to “pick my brain” or any of the other things people want to do.  Get thee to SWPB and soak in the knowledge.  SWPB put me three to five years ahead of the game in virtually all ways possible, but especially in client management, business savvy and industry best practices.  I cannot overemphasize how important this group has been to the growth of my business.

So here I go.  I’m self-employed, reliant on a business I created from scratch.  It feels good.  A little scary, but mostly really, really good.

facebook comments:

Elizabeth BeersMay 17, 2012 - 4:19 pm

You’re amazing, and I’m so happy for you.

Amber WilkieMay 17, 2012 - 4:27 pm

Aw thanks man.

Karen GolembeskiMay 17, 2012 - 5:03 pm

You’re an inspiration! Bravo! Just thinking of all the additional happy people who’ll be singing your praises now that you can book more weddings…your choice is literally bringing happiness to others. Again, congrats!

Elizabeth GolembeskiMay 17, 2012 - 5:09 pm

agreed 🙂

Erin VadenMay 17, 2012 - 6:07 pm

I am super proud of you! How brave to take this chance (though, at the rate you’re booking, it doesn’t seem SO risky!). I am extremely happy for you, and a teensy bit envious, but mostly I’m just sort of in awe of you for this – way to go, dude!

Amber WilkieMay 17, 2012 - 6:22 pm

Thank you Erin! I know it may seem I was complaining about my trip to NOLA up there, but it was really great to make that trip and get to hang with y’all – even if it meant everything else got mushed up into other times. 🙂

Amber WilkieMay 17, 2012 - 6:23 pm

Aw you ladies are too kind!!

Erin VadenMay 17, 2012 - 7:51 pm

Not at all – I took it the way it was intended!

Colin B JobhuntingMay 17, 2012 - 9:28 pm

I’m really excited for you! What movie was it?

mikeandfridaMay 17, 2012 - 9:58 pm

Congratulations! Onward to greatness Amber!

OliviaMay 21, 2012 - 8:21 pm

Yay! Keep on rockin, Amber! I’m happy you get to pursue your passion full time. 🙂

MarianaJune 21, 2012 - 9:21 am

My God Amber, this post made me tear up a little, just yesterday a hit a big wall, because as a newbie I just felt hopeless for a moment, things are not happening for me and I just felt like I did not know what to do next and then today I reed this and it just lifted me up to the sky. Thank You for this post.

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